Listen up, folks: There's a (sure to be) magnificent performance and a Netflix documentary at stake here. Even Taylor Swift's new song "The Man" apparently can't save her from the toxic patriarchy.
We spoke over the summer about the singer-songwriter-musician-performer-businesswoman-etc.-etc.-etc.'s feud with music industry kingpins Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta. To refresh your memory, Borchetta is the president and CEO of Swift's former record label, Big Machine Records, of which she was by far their biggest talent; Braun (who Swift has a history of beef with) owns SP Projects, the label that acquired Big Machine back in June. This means that all of Swift's recorded music, besides her latest album "Lover" (produced under a new contract with Republic Records), is under Big Machine's ownership.
A lot went into it, and it was a huge he-said-she-said, but the issue a few months ago was that the label was preventing Swift from purchasing the legal rights to her master recordings, meaning she has very little, if any, control over the use of 90 percent of her work from the moment her career took off. To that end, Swift's confirmed that she intends to re-record potentially all of her old music under her new contract with Republic, which allows her to retain ownership and rights. Which means we're getting all new versions of her songs, and I don't know how to act.
Swift has been plenty vocal about how manipulated she feels over not being able to really own what she's created. But having full control over her music isn't a new stance for the songstress. For example, when Spotify first became popular, Swift's discography was blatantly absent. She pulled her first four albums from the service in 2014, citing that she didn't feel comfortable with both the fact that online music streaming was fairly new and that the albums were essentially free to the public.
The following year, she famously got Apple to pay artists royalties during the three-month free trial of Apple Music when it first became available by writing a letter.
It stayed this way until 2017, when her music appeared again on Spotify (though I had to purchase "reputation" anyway rather than wait the week before she dropped it on the streamer, the minx).
Swift has never been quiet about her opinion that artists' work is valuable and should be treated as such. And Braun and Borchetta are definitely not treating hers as such.
Yesterday, Swift took to her social media profiles to let her fans know what's going down.
TL;DR: Swift claims that Big Machine Records is barring her from performing any music that's still under their ownership, since they consider it a breach of the contract she's still under with the label that prevents her from re-recording until November 2020. This means that her performance at the upcoming American Music Awards, where she'll be honored as Artist of the Decade, is in hella jeopardy.
"I've been planning to perform a medley of my hits throughout the decade on the show," she wrote. This will be the performance of a lifetime for Swifties, and if we don't get to see it, honestly? Braun and Borchetta won't know what hit them.
Furthermore, Swift revealed she's been working on a documentary about her life with Netflix, which includes performance footage and her older music throughout. The televised release of this, too, is being withheld. Swift's claims even go so far as to allege that Borchetta will allow the use of her music as she wishes...on the conditions that she not re-record her old albums and cease speaking out against he and Braun.
These men need to be stopped.
Big Machine came back with a statement, denying (but not really denying) Swift's claims and then turning it into a money thing. *eye roll*
"As Taylor Swift’s partner for over a decade, we were shocked to see her tumblr statements yesterday based on false information. At no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs or block her Netflix special. In fact, we do not have the right to keep her from performing live anywhere," the statement reads. "The truth is, Taylor has admitted to contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company, which is responsible for 120 hardworking employees who helped build her career."
What do we think about it?
If you know me, you know I'll back Swift 'til the world ends, but beyond blind loyalty, can't we all agree that this goes beyond contracts? Business is business, sure, but this is an artist making art, sharing her art and wanting to take responsibility over her art. It sounds like such a basic concept -- owning what you create -- but checkbooks and dollar signs hold way too much power, apparently.
The good thing coming out of all of this, though, is the example Swift is setting. She's a strong, successful woman standing up for herself, which is what the past couple of years have been all about! At times, it's important to see that a basic struggle -- sticking it to the man when you know you deserve to -- applies to the rich and famous, as well. It's a human decency thing, not a politics, class or status thing.
Good on Taylor for saying what she said. Of course Big Machine was going to come back and try to deny, and I'm sure she knew that -- but speaking her truth regardless of the backlash is brave as hell, and we can only hope it works out for her.
I also really, really, really want to watch a Netflix documentary about her life, so...stand with Taylor!
What does everyone else think?
Fellow stars and musicians are behind Swift big time, which makes me think that she's not the only one who can't do what she wants with her music.
Beyond that, fans are all but foaming at the mouth ready to attack anyone preventing their girl from doing what she wants with her music. Swift didn't make a mistake enlisting the help of her fanbase, that's for damn sure.
I assume Swift will let us all know how this pans out, but if anything, tune in to the American Music Awards on Nov. 24 to watch her accept the Artist of the Decade award. I'm sure she'll have a lot to say in her speech!